Hear No 911, Speak No 911, See No 911

AN AUDIO VERSION OF THIS BLOG IS HERE ON SOUNDCLOUD

Clearly the digits 911 are a brand that is recognized worldwide. For anyone living in the United States, we are taught at a very early age that these numbers can, and will, provide you with assistance in a dire emergency.

They are so ingrained in our culture, that for many, the very first instinct is to dial 911. With the massive explosion of subscribers of cellular devices exceeding 100% in the US, most calls today originate from these devices; this also holds true for calls to emergency services. This leads to a recipe for disaster, as the present day 911 network has unfortunately stagnated in its evolution of technology, or at least severely lagged behind the common communications modalities that we have become accustomed to, and use on a daily basis.

When cellular phones first came on the market, they were typically installed in vehicles and not portable in nature. At best, your “bag phone” that could be carried with you, but impossible to fit in a pocket. While your location was still an issue with 911 calls from these devices, most calls to 911 were related to motorists reporting incidents on highways. Based on this statistical reality, it was common to route cellular 911 calls to the state Highway Patrol where they could be triaged and re-routed accordingly. The state of California was no different, and at first, all cellular 911 calls were directed to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) station close to the caller.

With cellular phones starting to become portable, easily slipping into pockets, their use is no longer limited to motorists in vehicles, everyone carries them. Therefore, routing cellular 911 calls to CHP may create a problem where there is a high residential population, as residents who need the Sheriff’s Department, will now first reach CHP. While CHP gathers the information about the caller, and determines the agency that needs to handle the situation, precious minutes are lost. To combat this situation in El Dorado County California, the Sheriff’s Department  TwitterLogo@ElDoradoSheriff is recommending that residents avoid calling 911 on cell phones, and instead call 530-626-4911, a number that goes straight to the 911 call center.

Has 911 location discovery from cell phones finally reached a point where it is now so epidemic that we have actually instructed citizens “NOT TO DIAL 911?” Have we really decided to go down this path of potential disaster? I believe this problem can be improved, but unfortunately, it will take a little bit of work from the cellular carriers, and of course work is not free, and carriers rarely do anything that costs them money without attaching an invoice to it.

Let’s look how basic “Phase 1” cellular call routing works. Each cellular tower has three antenna faces servicing 120° of the compass, creating three sectors as shown below. Plotting the coverage area of each sector on a map will yield a rough estimate of the appropriate community covered by this sector.

CellMap

Each community will have a designated 911 center assigned to receive emergency calls. Any calls received from that cellular sector are routed to this designated 911 center, based on the location of the caller and the antennae face they hit. While admittedly this is not 100% accurate, and areas of overlap can and will still exist, the idea is to groom the routing so that the majority of 911 calls for that particular area are routed correctly the first time, minimizing any calls from being misrouted but easily transferred if needed.

Unfortunately, this is more work for the wireless carriers. Not only do they have to make the changes, they have to research the data to determine what the changes should be. And all of that as a cost associated with it. It is also possible that another “sleeping giant” could be awakened by this exercise. A few years ago it was suggested by a company that was tracking and matching cellular 911 data and call dispositions, that many of the cellular tower listings in the database, were actually incorrect, as seen by many calls being rerouted after being answered.

While admittedly, nothing can be perfect 100% of the time, as a public safety industry, we must strive for excellence in everything that we do. Lives are on the line, and even the slightest misinterpretation can lead to tragic results that cannot be undone.

At the Federal Communications Commission headquarters this past Friday, Chairman Tom Wheeler himself stated, “we’re just not cutting it as a nation”, referring to the technology we have deployed in our emergency services network, and our overall transition into next generation 911 services. While the reason for protecting our critical infrastructure surrounding emergency calls is clear and evident, we cannot bury our heads in the ground, and ignore commercial best practices that have been established over the years as our nation’s banking and financial institutions, as well as global retailers, have built large-scale resilient and secure networks, that it expanded our modern economy.

If we’re going to move public safety into the next paradigm of technological existence, we need to take a good long look in the mirror and leave our Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil attitudes at the door. Our safety and well-being globally is in the hands of a small group of dedicated, well-trained, and passionate emergency call takers. Let’s do our part, and give them the tools that they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911
Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

 

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he directs the strategic roadmap for Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, in 2014 – 2015 he served as co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the European Union, providing valuable insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

 

The BEST thing I stole this Christmas

While I take great pride in writing my own blog posts, I do read quite a bit, and I often run across great content that I am inclined to share a little further than the ‘SHARE’ button. When I see those certain nuggets, I invite them to reiterate their thoughts on my little island in the vast interwebs and share them with my, dare I say, friends. With that, I give you the BEST thing I STOLE this Christmas, and that is the RAVE Mobile Safety Top 5 List of Public Safety Events for 2015.

Originally published on Rave Mobile Safety’s Blog Site

2015-16-300x143

It’s that time of year when we look back at the past year and forward to the next. To understand where we are going, it’s helpful to look at the road we’ve already traveled. In that spirit, here is a look back at the Top 5 Trends that had the biggest impact on Emergency communications in 2015.

Costly Failures

9-1-1 needs to work. This message was heard loud and clear by service providers when earlier this year, the FCC doled out fines totaling more than $20 million to Verizon Communications Inc., CenturyLink Inc. and Intrado Inc.. No technology is perfect, and occasionally issues happen, but the FCC’s aggressive response clearly showed that our public safety communication infrastructure needs not only redundancy at all steps but rigorous process and timely notification and visibility into corrective actions. As the industry moves to enhance networks, software and processes we can’t lose site of the difference between the cost of a consumer application not working and a public safety service not working. If an app “locks up”, a data connection drops, or a 10-digit call fails, we simply try again. We don’t really know or care why it didn’t work. It is simply a minor annoyance. It’s more than a minor annoyance when lives are at stake. 9-1-1 is different. It needs to work and we need to continue the process of continual improvement to build resiliency into the entire emergency call handling chain.  It’s why we tell people to call 9-1-1 and not some other number.

Kari’s Law

While the tragic death of Kari Hunt Dunn was in 2013, 2015 was the year her impact on public safety was most felt. Starting with legislation in Suffolk County, Long Island, it spurred changes in the existing Illinois law, and new legislation in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Texas where it came to the attention of Congressman Louie Gohmert who filed a Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would expand on the Texas law requiring direct dialing of 9-1-1 and on-site notification for multi-line telephone systems.  The tireless work of the Hunt family and supporters like FCC Commissioner Pai and Avaya Public Safety Architect Mark Fletcher, ENP resulted in rapid action across the country. While the changes to the MLTS configurations are clearly needed, this event makes my Top 5 list because of the example set in turning a tragic event into trend to solve a “hidden” issue, resulting in untold lives saved in the future.

Location, Location, Location

I grew up with a mom who sold real estate. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard about how it is all about location. Well, that is true in 9-1-1 as well, and 2015 was the year the FCC took aggressive action to improve both visibility into the location information being provided to PSAPs as well as the quality of that data (especially indoors). In February 2015, The FCC issued enhanced locations standards. Following on the indoor location roadmap endorsed by NENA, APCO, and the 4 leading wireless carriers in late 2014, the rules drive improved location accuracy for indoor callers over the next 7 years. The carriers, the CTIA and ATIS took quick action in developing standards and moving aggressively towards improving location. While meeting the standards will take a mix of different technologies, an RFP has already been issued for the NEAD (National Emergency Address Database) which will provide location information on WiFi access points – a key part of the indoor location mix. While those of us in public safety always want things to move faster, the reality is that a national roll-out, of a public safety grade solution, done correctly, on the timeline required is an aggressive undertaking and I applaud the FCC for creating consensus and driving the process. Within a short time frame, we will begin to see vast improvements in indoor location accuracy delivered by the carriers to PSAPs.

FirstNet Drives Public Safety Investment

In December 2015, FirstNet’s board approved the Request for Proposal (RFP) to deploy the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) and directed management to take all necessary actions to release the RFP in early January. While this is clearly a huge step towards a first responder network, the work towards defining the NPSBN and the level of momentum sustained by FirstNet is why this made my list for 2015. A by-product of this effort is an increased level of interest and investment in public safety by both the venture capital community and established companies that have traditionally been active in tangential markets (e.g. federal, defense, health care). The level of innovation and resources brought by these companies can only serve to help improve the options we have available to us in providing better service and response to citizens.

Technology Adoption Marches On… and Into Public Safety

According to the CTIA, more than 47 percent of American homes use only cellphones, and 71 percent of people in their late 20s live in households with only cellphone. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center Study, “nearly three-quarters of teens have or have access to a smartphone and 30% have a basic phone, while just 12% of teens 13 to 17 say they have no cell phone of any type”. To improve service and offload the rapidly growing network traffic, the carriers have begun enabling WiFi calling on mobile devices (see this blog post for our WiFi calling to 9-1-1 testing results and implications). Well known to any parent, Pew also reports that Facebook remains the most used social media site among American teens ages 13 to 17 with 71% of all teens using the site, even as half of teens use Instagram and four-in-ten use Snapchat. So what does this mean for PSAPs?

Already nearly 10% of the country gets additional data on calls from Smart911, regions are rapidly rolling out NG9-1-1 to facilitate new call types, and despite the worries of many about getting swamped with text messages, texting-to-911 is becoming common place across PSAPs. Social media is also creeping its way into public safety with an increasing number of fusion centers and crime centers actively monitoring social media. As communication trends evolve, so too will our emergency communications capabilities.

 

CLOSING FROM FLETCH:

Thanks so much to the folks at RAVE. A very innovative company with an eye on the future providing support and fresh new ideas to PSAPs across the country as we all strive to push forward to the Next Generation of 9-1-1 services becomes a reality.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he provides the strategic roadmap and direction of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, and is an active participant in EENA where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward best practices in both innovation and compliance.

9-1-1 Glitches

911Glitch

Press PLAY to listen to the Podcast on SoundCloud

The 9-1-1 Network is there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Public Safety touts 5  9’s reliability, resiliency, and a redundant network, to be ready when the worse happens. Why is it then, when the worse does happen it turns out to be a very bad day for all?

Exactly 3 years ago during the last week of October in 2012,  Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeastern US, and it was a bad week with central offices flooded, networks out of service, and battery backups failing to react, or not providing the uptime that were designed to provide. Much of the PSTN in the Northeast was offline, including many of our 9-1-1 centers.

Just before midnight on April 9th in 2014, the Pacific Northwest experienced a 911 outage that affected a total of 83 PSAPs. This included five PSAPs in Florida, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania that all relied on a common 911 routing service. The root cause here wasn’t Mother Nature. This was a classic “sunny day” outage—one that did not result from an extraordinary disaster or other unforeseeable catastrophes. This outage was caused by a database overflow that prevented new calls from getting a critical record identifier to track them in the network, and, therefore, the calls failed to route and terminate properly.

Yet again, we have another ‘9-1-1 Glitch’, this time in Western Pennsylvania. According to KDKA in Pittsburgh, the problem was the result of a computer communication fail-safe that failed to do its job. Approximately after about 2 hours, the unnamed software’s vendor was able to eventually fix the bug. But there are a few minor details that are still missing. What exactly was the reported ‘bug’ and who is this mystery software vendor? The relevance is that CenturyLink was involved with the Pacific Northwest outage, as well as the Western PA outage. If there is a similarity between the April 2014 outage and the October 2015 outage, the public has a right to know and understand that. It should also be a red flag to any other environment that uses a similar topology.

We like to think our 9-1-1 networks have 5 x 9’s reliability. But to achieve that, you are only allowed to have 5.26 minutes of downtime a year. with this outage being reportedly 2 hours long, that would mean out of the 525600 minutes in a year, they were up for only 525,480 of those minutes, which is 99.97% of the time, or just under 4 x 9’s. Maybe 5 x 9’s is not high enough to strive for? Or maybe we are not holding our 9-1-1 vendors to strict enough SLA’s?

Based on the news reports, there was some problem with the primary system going into a state of partial failure. Since it was not completely failed, the backup never kicked in. This, in itself, is also a failed Active-Standby design. High availability systems today are designed with Active-Active processing, there is no switchover or failover time. The best example of this is any commercial  airliner today. Although there are 2 engines on the plane, it is perfectly capable of flying on a single engine. Should one engine fail in flight, the plane can safely navigate and land at an alternate airport for repairs. Both engines are running from takeoff to touchdown, they don’t leave one off in case the first one fails.

I am hoping the true story behind this outage is made public, and soon. Public Safety Administrators have the lives of millions in their hands, and they want to do the best they can, and follow industry best practices. Unfortunately, it seems these system failures are becoming systemic, and while the FCC is stepping in with their Task Force on Optimal PSAP Architecture, I hope that is not too little too late.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he provides the strategic roadmap and direction of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, and co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the EU, where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.o

Hacking 911: Is the Genie out of the Bottle?

For many years a level of frailty has existed in the nation’s 911 network and its primary level of protection has been “security through obscurity“. The configuration of the network and details of its inner workings were not documented, at least not publicly, and only a relatively small group of people understood the actual operations. With modern-day communications, social media, and the growingly popular hacker community events it was only a matter of time before the proverbial ‘genie’ was let out of its bottle. Information on hacking 911 networks and systems going mainstream with it.

Certainly one of the oldest hacker conventions on the planet, and by far the largest, is the DEF CON event held in Las Vegas. 2014 marked the 22nd year of this event, but it also had some significance to the public safety community. You see, it was on Saturday, August 10 at the 10 AM Track 2 session where Christian Dameff, MD (@CDameffMD )and Jeff Tully, MD (@jefftullymd) openly discuss the archaic nature of the 911 dispatch system and its failure to evolve with technology over recent years. In addition to being recently graduated medical doctors they are both DEF CON regulars and described themselves as “researchers with a passion for the intersection between security and healthcare”.

One of the things they noticed is that quite often when 911 recordings are released to the public they include DTMF tones that can be decoded. This could unintentionally expose information about the caller as well as the agency, which in turn could be used in a denial of service attack.

Based on this I would expect to see new NENA and APCO recommendations to public safety agencies that redacted these tones on future distributions of 911 call audio. Which would be a huge step in the direction of protecting the skimming of this sensitive information.

For the past several years in my Avaya CONNECTED Blog, I’ve been covering the various SWATTING attacks that have plagued public safety agencies large and small. Fortunately, most of those incidents have utilized relatively rudimentary tactics that included social engineering of a relay service operator who provides service designed for the deaf and hearing impaired. Many times those attempts will leave trace elements behind, and with tenacious investigation efforts many times the executors of those crimes are found, prosecuted, and sentenced.

Hacking the telephone network is certainly nothing new. Whether it was the “blue box” built by Steve Wozniak, or the Cap’nCrunch whistle used by John Draperthat could be modified to emit a perfect 2600 Hz tone (effectively putting the nation’s long-distance network at your beck and call), hacking has been an active pastime of many of the great innovators today.

Its original use was to bypass the incredibly high toll charges we were subject to by the telephone company for long-distance and international calls. Phone phreaking went mainstream when the story was published in the October 1971 issue of Esquire Magazine. A copy of that article is available online here.

While phreaking has all but died out, since toll fraud is no longer popular thanks to flat rate cellular plans and unlimited home phone long distance available for unbelievably low rates, phone “phreaking” took on a more sinister nature.

Will the recent Wired article have the same impact on hacking E911 that the Esquire article had on hacking telecommunications? While that’s yet to be seen, the potential impact is certainly much more dire, and that is something Public Safety needs to consider.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he provides the strategic roadmap and direction of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, and co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the EU, where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

What was Behind the Massive E911 Outages in the Pacific Northwest?

(Express-Times photo (2010))

As we move towards IP-enabled emergency services networks in the United States, we supposedly leave behind an archaic, TDM-based, hardwired point-to-point infrastructure with a new, resilient architecture that is easily rerouted around a failed segment. But exactly what happened in the Pacific Northwest when a supposedly planned maintenance event took out communications across a two-state area?

The immediate reaction by many was disbelief. After all, haven’t we learned our lesson in diversity and single points of failure with the massive outages in the Northeast from hurricane Sandy?

Nonetheless, the incident did happen, and for nearly 6 hours most — if not all — of 911 was off the air, stranding a reported 4,500 callers who needed assistance, according to a report from KIRO-TV.

As a professional in the public safety communications business, what I find slightly insulting are statements that make it into the press such as: “caused by an isolated system issue that was promptly resolved after root cause identification.”

While the term “promptly resolved” may be reassuring to the general public, the qualifier of, “after root cause identification” is the more troubling piece of information.

I can only imagine my daughter pulling into the driveway telling me that she had a flat tire, but she “promptly changed it, as soon as she realized it was flat” only then to realize that it took her six hours to realize she had a flat tire, hence the smoking, mangled wheel in the trunk of the car.

One of the areas of caution for public safety communications officials is going to be the monitoring of systems, and their interaction with the overall network. This is a significant point that needs to be taken under serious consideration when building and designing next-generation emergency services networks.

Public safety has always operated behind a closed curtain, taking the stance that important life-safety work was happening, therefore they should not be hampered by rules and policies that could affect their important mission.

But one area that has to be acknowledged is that commercial networks have come of age and have learned from previous events that include natural disasters, DDoS attacks, and direct attacks by some of the best hackers on the planet. The very resiliency and reliability that they demand to perform their mission critical life safety function is the identical resiliency and reliability that the world’s largest financial institutions demand to protect their data, as well as their customers.

When we sit back and look at the functionality that “Next Generation 911″ will bring into the public safety workspace, it is the world-class multi-modal, multi-channel functionality we have been delivering to commercial entities for decades.

Communications is an app on the network. Inbound and outbound communications events are easily coordinated and managed based on specific criteria. The age-old adage of routing a caller to a resource with close proximity to them only makes sense when there isn’t a large scale massive event taking place.

At the recent FCC workshop discussing the transition of 911, NENA’s Trey Forgety brought up the very relevant point that during a massive emergency event, the best place for the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) may be in the back of a hardened vehicle that is driving away from the emergency to an area where they will be safe and can establish a new fixed operational base.

While that’s an excellent plan, it requires a whole new method of thinking and engineering.

I often remind the engineers I work with that an Internet Protocol (IP) session does not mean we’re putting information on the “Internet”. It means that were using the Internet protocol — a network of network — to route information from node to node.

Under normal sunny-day conditions, that IP-based network may very well remain within the walled garden of an agency’s network. But when an emergent condition exists at the time of a disaster, we need to be able to dynamically open gateways to specific paths within the garden that are accessible from the outside. Of course in doing so, the highest level of security needs to be considered and implemented.

I believe that what has yet to be developed, or has not been developed enough, is the technical acumen of networking technology by public safety specialists. As I sit back and think, I can almost count on a single hand the number of people that I would feel comfortable with designing modern IP-based critical communications environments.

When I’m asked what value Avaya brings to the public safety table, I talk about our decades of resilient, reliable, redundant communications, and keeping the proverbial “lights on” in some of the most dire events of the past few decades. As examples, I again look to our large financial and commercial contact center customers who have worked their way through 9/11, massive blackouts across the Northeast, and as the newly coined Derecho and Blizzards on the planet.

Be sure to join me on April 22 for a free webinar sponsored by our good friends at Smart 911 and Rave Mobile Safety. I’ll be joined by Todd Piatt from Rave, and Bill Schrier (@BillSchrier) who is with the State of Washington office of the CTO, where will be discussing NG9-1-1 / First Net in the changing role of 911.

I will also be kicking off the 2014 series of the Public Safety Best Practices Forum at the Embassy Suites Hotel at the Seattle Tacoma International Airport in Washington on Thursday, April 24, where I will be joined by Patrick Botz from Voice Print International, Inc., and other industry colleagues. If you are in the Seattle-Tacoma area and want more information you can go to http://psapforum.com/Seattle.

Want more technology, news and information from Avaya? Be sure to check out the Avaya Podcast Network landing page athttp://avaya.com/APN. There, you will find additional podcasts from industry events, such as Avaya Evolutions and INTEROP, as well as other informative series by the APN staff.

Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya Connected blog on E911. I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or, if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he provides the strategic roadmap and direction of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, and co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the EU, where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

E911 Big Data – The Next Horizon

Screenshot 2015-10-25 13.57.05

As we wrap up the events of 2012, I can’t help but look back on the fast-paced evolution that is taken place in the Public Safety industry. In the beginning of the year, NG911 was officially conceived when it was promulgated by the Next Generation 911 Advancement Act of 2012 that was part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act signed into law by the President in February.

By strange coincidence, just nine short months later, NG911 networks are being born around North America with texting to 911 being touted in several areas around the country. With these new emergency services networks being built, and ready to accept the extremely important “additional data” objects that originating networks can easily provide, the days of matching telephone numbers with street addresses in some archaic database that cannot be efficiently and affordably updated, are quickly going to enter their sunset phase.

Some naysayers said it would never happen, or be years into the future, and banked on the continuance of the overburdened backend architecture of the legacy 911 network. Others, took a completely different tact and turned to technology that was not necessarily innovative in its nature, but completely new to public safety networks. New mechanisms of dealing with the “Big Data” available in an emergency situation required a new way of thinking that was essentially foreign to this environment. Fortunately, enterprise businesses have been dealing with the concepts of “Big Data”, whether they knew it or not, since corporate networks came into existence.

“Your call will be answered in the exact order it was received”
Whoever came up with that concept had a very myopic view on business trends.

Unless you are a radio station giving away tickets to the latest concert, “the exact order in which your call was received” is probably the most useless business strategy when dealing with customers. Public Safety also has its share of customers, however those customers are usually calling with life-threatening issues. It’s easy to understand, how in the past, choosing the most important phone call out of a group of 10 would be nearly impossible. All of the buttons on the telephone flash at the same rate, and the ringer on the phone for each line is identical.

There is no indicator that is able to say “Hey! I am more important than the rest!” Given that scenario, potentially the fairest mechanism was “your call will be answered in the exact order it was received”.

Think about that for a second. That argument is really no longer valid, as the business world is full of analytical research. Businesses act a certain way based on statistical data that’s available. It could be consumer shopping habits around a holiday, web browser history and associated keywords, or just about anything else that’s measurable or recordable.

“Your NG911 call will be answered according to priority”
Here’s where the value of additional data, and Big Data, come into play. A classic example that’s commonly used when talking about intelligent call routing in an NG 911 environment is, a motor vehicle accident on the highway is generating 10 or more simultaneous calls into a single PSAP. These calls are identified based on two things. First, their origination network is the cellular network. Secondly the geodetic coordinates of the device match the coordinates of a motor vehicle accident already being worked.

Assumption:  Callers 2 through 10 are most likely calling about the motor vehicle accident. If there are no additional calls in queue, these can be answered “in the exact order in which they were received” following the legacy standards already in place.

But, caller 11 shows up in the queue, and is originating from a landline telephone registered to a residence across town.

Assumption: Caller 11 is most likely NOT calling about the known motor vehicle accident, and therefore is escalated in the queue, or assigned to a call taker who has been reserved for when these conditions have been met.

Those of you who operate enterprise call centers, can already see the pattern developing here. While legacy public safety vendors are busy spinning their wheels trying to figure out how to deliver multimedia sessions to emergency call takers, folks like Avaya have figured that out years ago, and in many cases pretty much invented the call handling functionality, or at least were the first to implement it.

It’s called workforce optimization or WFO, and it’s a common function found within the contact center products. We already know how to deal with “Big Data”, analyze it, and use it to efficiently route to call taker resources in large multisite networks. Although some may say calling a large retailer to complain about your refrigerator delivery carries nowhere near the urgency or resiliency required for public safety, and while I agree there is a significant difference in the nature of the calls, I also need to remind you of some simple facts.

Most recently during hurricane Sandy in the Northeast, the utilities infrastructure was badly damaged with countless individuals out of service. For those citizens who had emergencies, in many cases those calls went to fast busy or unanswered as the legacy 911 network became oversubscribed and the calls went into a black hole “in the exact order they were received”. On the other hand, if you called Delta Airlines to find out if your flight was delayed, you were routed to a resource that could provide you with information or assistance. You might also be able to call your power provider, and based on your customer profile, you may be presented with a power restoration estimate.

The bottom line is that intelligent call handling, offloading calls that matched a particular pattern, and looking at the “Big Data” associated with sessions, the network can dynamically fine tune it’s routing functionality to ensure that “Your call will be routed to the Best Resource, in the exact order in which it was received.”

While doing some research on this topic, I ran across a great article by colleague of mine, Kathy McMahon, who was the Technical Services Manager for APCO International. If you are looking for a nice read on the topic of GIS, take a look at her article from 2010 in Law Officer HERE.

Of course, getting that data into the Emergency Services IP Network is required, but fortunately the one thing we have understood for several years, is how to share data and collaborate across disparate networks in a secure and resilient manner.

She also confirms a point that I also feel very strongly about:
“[although] the conventional concept of civic address validation will continue to be used for NG9-1-1. The terms ANI, ALI and MSAG will go away because their functions will be replaced by GIS databases and a new location validation function (LVF). The GIS data, once validated, will provide location information that will be used for routing emergency calls to PSAPs. All of these elements working together will form the new emergency call routing function (ECRF) that’s a critical component of NG9-1-1.”

My crystal ball says in 2013 “the NG911 adoption rate will be unprecedented in both speed and reach and in addition to Public Safety NG911 ESInet deployments across the US, you will see Enterprise networks providing Big Data to this new eco-system of information.”

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he provides the strategic roadmap and direction of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, and co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the EU, where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

9-1-1 CARES

Screenshot 2015-10-25 13.44.21

The following is a reposting from Kevin Willett who is the Founder of 911 CARES. This organization tries to provide support to 9-1-1 professionals after a tragedy, and is taking a huge part for the event that is playing out in Newtown, Connecticut. You can find out what YOU can do to support this effort by visiting them on the web at www.911cares.com

Kindness during tragedy.
BY: Kevin Willett

I am always struck with the spirit of America in the aftermath of trauma. I wanted to share a story from Friday. I had stopped by our offices at PSTC-911CARES just as the death toll was being reported in Newtown.

It was a punch in the gut. After thinking about the victims, families, responders and of course the dispatchers, I mentioned to a co-worker that “I bet those dispatchers have been sitting all morning and afternoon with no food or drink”. I know it seems silly but we give of ourselves and in the race to save lives, we forgo simple things like meals. After hours, your body needs the food to fuel performance.

I simply “googled” newtown connecticut pizza and got Carminuccio’s Pizza in Newtown. I called them and explained I wanted three of their most popular pizza pies delivered to the 9-1-1 dispatchers in Newtown. The gal that answered said they didn’t deliver. I explained what was happening and asked for an exception and if someone could maybe help bend the rules. There was a pause and then a “hell yes”. I gave Jaime my credit card number and my cell and thanked her. Done…..not quite.

In less than ten minutes I got a call back. Jaime explained she shared my call with her manager and that they were calling to let me know that my pies would be on the way in a bit and that they were promising that they would make sure the dispatchers got new pizzas, salads and whatever all day and night at NO CHARGE. They thanked us for giving them a way to help.

That is the best analogy for 911 CARES. People want to “help” or appreciate or honor or mourn. Dispatchers want to support their own. If you look at our Facebook page, you will see the many posts that are for there for the Connecticut Dispatchers to read. Newtown, Connecticut State Patrol and allied dispatch centers all worked together and though the death toll of 26 is hard to digest, there were over 580 people SAFELY evacuated. We MUST take any positive moment and celebrate that.

You can read updates, postings from others and more at our Facebook page where we will post updates. PSTC 911 CARES Facebook www.facebook.com/pstc911

We also post updates at our 911 CARES web site for those that are unable to visit social network sites at work. 911 CARES Website www.911cares.com


Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he provides the strategic roadmap and direction of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, and co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the EU, where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

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